Days 4 & 5 Clearwater, FL: Dolphins & Crabby’s! 🐬🦀

Hi all!!! Welcome to Days 4 & 5 of our Clearwater vacation!

We started the day with room service breakfast in my mom and Pete’s suite.

Since I had the high chair in our room, we just plopped Quinn right on top of the table to eat. It worked well & was an easy clean up!

I tried the egg white frittata with a side of that delicious chicken apple sausage I mentioned a couple posts ago!

So yummy! It left us wondering though- what is the difference between an omelette and a frittata? According to the infallible source called the Internet, it has to do with the speed of cooking and degree of heat: an omelette is cooked over high heat more quickly, where a frittata is cooked low and slow. And another thing that’s for certain- frittata is just more fun to say!

Anyway, we gobbled up our respective omelettes, frittatas, potatoes, potahtoes and then got our day started! I got in another wonderful run, and then Deej and I headed to the beach. It was my mom and Pete’s last day and they soaked up every minute with Quinn possible. DJ and I originally were going to go out to lunch to have a real date, but realized we can plan a date out to a restaurant at home but can’t go to the beach every day!

We enjoyed one last day under the cabanas and then ordered some lunch. I had this burger with vegan cheese & it really hit the spot!

Quinn was on a great schedule with Grammy & Grampy- she got in her nap and a good lunch!

Right before my mom and Pete headed out in the afternoon, we all met to enjoy the beach and pool all together one last time.

Then they headed out. It was an especially tough goodbye! It was a win for all – DJ and I actually got to relax a bunch on vacation, and they got lots of quality time with Quinnie ❤️.

DJ and I weren’t one bit upset taking back over full time parental duty. We sure had a blast our last couple full days with Quinn! Although I was very sad missing my mom and Pete. I felt like there was a void.

That evening, we got cleaned up and then did a little walk around the pier.

Quinn was particularly exhausted that evening- I think the whole week of “fun and new” was catching up to her. What we thought may be a nap transitioned into Quinn saying “I’m going to sleep for the night!”. DJ and I quietly ordered pizza from a place that had a vegan option and took turns eating while Quinn slept. DJ and I both ordered Hawaiian, but there wasn’t pineapple on mine, so DJ took the pineapple off his and put it on mine. So sweet of him to do that 🥹❤️.

It was kind of a funny scene actually eating the pizza. I went into the ice room so the noise of me eating wouldn’t wake her. I was crouched there with a whole pizza to myself in my pajamas, praying no one walked in as I stuffed my face 😂.

It was very average pizza, but good for vegan pizza!

We were asleep fairly early and then were ready to go the next day!

We were in the mood to hit a coffee shop and found one within walking distance- Blessed Cup Coffee. It was located on the second floor of a nearby shopping center.

The place itself was certainly quirky, Quinn was entertained by the big cartoonish animals on the walls. I adored the faith inspired touches around the shop. They even had a prayer request wall which was pretty neat.

The coffee was excellent too! It was probably the longest we’ve ever waited for a couple cups of coffee, but worth it. Plus we had nowhere to be!

We also split their yummy avocado toast.

Quinn was soon ready for another nap. She did not partake in the coffee stop, clearly ;). While she napped, we walked with coffee in hand around Clearwater perusing the pier, shops, inside the hotel lobby and wherever else to kill time until she woke up.

When she woke up, we headed out for our big outing of the day- Clearwater Marine Aquarium!

Quinn was enthralled with watching the dolphins. It was so sweet.

The marine aquarium was just about the perfect amount to do for her age. The main attraction were the dolphins, there was even a live performance included in admission. Other creatures included sea turtles, many exotic fish and birds, stingrays, sharks and otters! For older kids they have interactive options like touching the stingrays.

Also how cute are these dolphin shaped pretzels?! I wanted to get one but they had butter on them- next time! 😊

Oh and you know, just another day of casually surfing in some trash 😬. Promoting conservation, rescue, rehabilitation and release of Marine animals is a big part of their mission!

It was a lot of fun – the Aquarium was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip!We also snagged souvenir photos that DJ swore we were not purchasing as we walked up to the picture kiosk – mmmm hmmm, sure 😉.

We headed back to the hotel and got ready to go out to lunch.

Columbia restaurant was where DJ and I had our eye to go on our date originally (but then we chose one last beach day instead). We still wanted to try this place out, so Quinnie was along for the date this time! Made it all the sweeter 🥰.

We sat outside, and it was the most wonderful and peaceful atmosphere overlooking the water. Quinn was happy as a clam. We just brought along a pouch to tide her over until the food came.

The inside decor was really stunning too- but everyone was flocking to sit out on their patio on such a gorgeous afternoon.

They brought out this delicious bread that was fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside and clearly fresh from the oven. Quinn couldn’t get enough of the stuff (neither could I!).

DJ and I tried their Ybor City Devil Crab Croquettes- mmmm mmmmmmm!

I also had to try their famous Spanish black bean soup. It was delish and Quinn’s favorite part of the meal too.

For my main, I had the Paella a la Valenciana with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamares, chicken and pork. This was heavenly. They plated it table-side from the skillet, which was entertaining to watch!

DJ had the Cannelloni de Langosta which included pasta filled with Maine lobster meat, shrimp, pan-seared scallops and sautéed shallots in a lobster sherry cream reduction, smothered with a lobster sherry Mornay cheese sauce and pieces of lobster.

The verdict? DJ raved about it. He said it was probably the best thing he had eaten the whole trip!

We agreed if you are going to eat anywhere in Clearwater for lunch or dinner, make it Columbia!!

After our meals, we headed back to the hotel with happy, full stomachs and put on our swimsuits for some late afternoon beach/pool time.

Ok you guys see this head band I’m wearing? While we were on the beach the seagulls swarmed us. I was holding Quinn shielding her with my body freaking out as they descended. I couldn’t figure out what it was they wanted. Through the sea of squawks DJ suggested it might be my headband. So I threw it, and sure enough they dived after it (probably thinking it was a piece of bread?!). Yeah that was enough excitement for me for one day 😅.

Once we put away the headband, we enjoyed walking along the beach together as a family.

Then we enjoyed some pool time 😊.

After our fun in the Sun, we headed out to dinner at Crabby’s, another Clearwater classic. There are several locations, and we went to the hideout version.

It did feel tucked away and off the beaten path.

For starters, DJ and I shared their bourbon street shrimp with Cuban bread. So good. I only had a little though because I suspected there may be butter in the sauce.

It was hard to choose from their menu because everything looked so good, but I was craving coconut shrimp something fierce that evening! I ordered the Caribbean bowl with coconut shrimp, coconut rice, mango salsa, fresh cabbage, and diced avocado. YUM!

And DJ had their grouper tacos! He actually liked these ones better than the ones he had the first night at Marina Cantina.

And that’s a wrap! Actually, no sorry, that is a taco. But the post is a wrap 😝.

Thanks for reading!



Day One Clearwater, FL! Traveling & Marina Cantina.

Good morning, everyone! We went on a vacation to Clearwater, FL last week, and I can’t wait to share all about it. In this post I’ll be recapping our general travels and everything that all encompassed with our 11 month old, Quinn. I’ll also chat about our first evening in the Sunshine State and share some yummy food!

The night before we left we soaked up our time with Moose. He was going to be safe and happy at his Aunt Marie’s, but this would be the longest we had ever been away from him. It ended up being really tough for all of us! Even Quinn woke up the first morning and giggled when she thought she saw Moose at the end of our bed- but it was just a suitcase :(. Needless to say, being reunited with Moose was a huge highlight returning from this wonderful trip ☺️.

Gigi and Gordie graciously offered to take us to the airport at the wee hours of the morning. We left the house around 530 AM. Packing for this trip took extra organization and planning given we were away for six nights, and we were flying.

I tried not to overpack and planned out most days’ outfits for both me and Quinn. I usually just throw everything in a suitcase under the weight limit and call it a day, but not this time. It was nice traveling somewhere warm since we didn’t have a lot of bulky items to pack, minus a go-to sweatshirt for cooler evenings.

The big question mark going into this trip was how to travel with breast milk. Each airline has a policy, so I looked up the one we’d be flying and followed accordingly. I found this cooler, packed it with two big ice packs and put the breast milk in. I packed about 20 oz that I pumped specifically extra for this trip (about 1-2 oz a day for the last few weeks). The cooler worked just well enough for our 11ish hour travel day, but the milk was just starting to defrost by the time I took it out. If you get this cooler, make sure you use some good ice packs and multiple of them!

We ended up packing two suitcases, the cooler and had a carry-on mini suitcase. The carry-on contained extra outfits, shoes, toys, bathing suits and essentials in case luggage got lost/delayed.

Also! Some airlines don’t consider a diaper bag a carry on, so that was nice!

First things first. You can guess what that is! While at Starbucks, I grabbed a fruit pouch for Quinn along with an oatmeal. She wanted nothing to do with the oatmeal but slurped down the fruit pouch.

She conked back out before our first leg of the trip, so we just did circles on foot around the Cleveland airport until it was time to board. We boarded last to give her as much time to sleep as possible.

And here we go!!!

After her nap, she had a LOT of energy for the first two hour stretch of the flight. We were already exhausted by the time of our layover 😅. We brought along some toys for the airplane. This little window spinner worked for about 2 minutes 🤪. Nothing occupied this girl more than the back safety inserts in the plane and a plastic water bottle.

We were nervous the loud, rumbling take off would scare her, but she was all smiles as the plane started moving and gliding into the air.

She slept the second leg of the trip which was much more chill and allowed me time to watch the Love Is Blind finale!

We landed, got our luggage and headed out to our rental without a hitch….until we encountered our biggest foe of the entire trip. Dun-dun-dunnnnnn. I thought assembling the stroller was one of the greatest challenges our marriage had faced yet- but we hadn’t come face to face with a rental car seat! We saw all these other parents carrying their car seats through the airport, and we are 1000% doing that next time. It took us a good 40 mins to figure the foreign contraption installation out. I was also getting hangry which didn’t help the situation 🥴. Quinn was a trooper though – she barely fussed which helped tremendously in that somewhat stressful moment. DJ figured it out and turns out all my ideas were probably just delaying success with the darn thing 🤪.

Once we were on our way into Clearwater, we felt a huge sense of relief. There was bumper to bumper traffic for a festival, so the usual 30 minute drive took us a good hour.

But we made it!!!

We stayed at Sandpearl Resort. The service was wonderful, even before we got there. I called a couple weeks prior to the trip because I hoped to have meals delivered for Quinn from Little Spoon since I was worried there wouldn’t be enough for her to eat at restaurants that wasn’t loaded with dairy/sodium/etc. The hotel made it seem like it was absolutely no big deal, and they made sure we were all set and comfortable the minute we arrived. They also acted like it was no big deal storing my breast milk in their chef freezer. They promised it would be stored among the “best seafood and steaks around” 😄. I don’t know why but that statement made me giggle- just envisioning my milk next to a bunch of lobster, I suppose!

One of my favorite parts of the room is it had a Nespresso machine!! I was so WRONG about Nespresso! I think I just never tried the right pods for me- because the ones they had in the room I became quickly obsessed with. I am kicking myself for ever returning the one I had 🥲.

The views out our room were so peaceful. I don’t usually care much for a view on vacations- I figure you’ll be out and about in what you’d be seeing, so why pay extra to view it from afar? But waking up to this (which wasn’t even considered one of their rooms with a great view), may have opened my eyes quite literally to the bliss of a beautiful view. Basically the moral of the story is my mind was changed a lot on this trip, hah!

Back to Little Spoon- I’ve never tried this service out before but figured it’d be a good time to give it a go! They make organic, nutritious meals that are appropriate for baby led weaning and chock full of creativity and flavor (I actually usually finished Quinn’s meals when she didn’t- they were good!).

Here are the meals loaded into our fridge! I opted for 14 meals for the 6 night stay, and it was just the right amount. She finished her last meal the night before we left. We just took them heated up to restaurants with us or gave them to her in the room (the resort brought us up a high chair).

We also did an Instacart Order from a nearby grocery store to stock up on diapers/wipes, random snacks, Serenity Kids and other fruit/veggie pouches, teether crackers, almond yogurt, peanut butter, nut pod coffee creamer and sunscreen. We tried to avoid packing things we could just stock up on once we arrived, and that worked well!

We took turns getting ready for our dinner out and then hit the main drag in Clearwater on foot. I dressed Quinn in a dress from Cozumel from her Grammy and Grampy who were flying in that evening to join us for some of our vacation!

Practicing our waving 🥰.

Being on this main strip energized me immediately!! I love being out and about in any city we’re visiting. I had a moment of thinking “Wow, we’re actually doing it!! We’re on vacation with our girl!”. It felt like a fusion of our life of travel prior to Quinnie to our life with her. And it was the BEST of all worlds!! 🥰

Someone else didn’t quite feel as energized as their mom; Quinn decided it was an excellent time for a nap. I was relieved she fell asleep though- it was a long travel day & she was taking in a lot of newness!

We caught a glimpse of the festival happening – an easy target to spot given the Ferris wheel.

At the end of the main strip is a building that houses multiple restaurants and shops. On the rooftop was our destination: Marina Cantina.

This place was a whole vibe. From the live music under delicate string lights, to the tables with crystal clear views of the pier to the fantastic presentation of the dishes to the warm, amicable infectious mood of the patrons- it was the best kick-off to our vacation!

My mom and Pete arrived a little after us but just on time to get orders in. We started with their chips, salsa, queso and guac trio (naturally). I wanted to dive into that queso so badly- soon enough hopefully! A couple more weeks till we trial dairy again!

The salsa and guac I had was extra good. Fresh as all get out!

I brought Quinn a Little Spoon meal with beans, corn and chicken. I also gave her some of the yummy guac.

I ordered a virgin spicy margarita that was sooo tasty!

Quinn spending time with Grammy before the food arrived 🥰.

Time for more food!!! Get a load of this cornbread 😍

My mom and I split the ever so tasty Spanish octopus dish and the kale salad. I was craving something light and refreshing after a travel day, and this meal hit the spot! (Still, no Spanish octopus compares to what I had at Marco Prime).

Three generations 🥰.

Taking full advantage of having family around to take family pics!

After dinner, we were all ready to turn in after the long, yet beautiful, day.

Once Quinn was asleep I quietly unpacked/organized everything: I felt wired and didn’t love the idea of going to sleep with our suitcases exploded everywhere. I don’t usually unpack for short trips, but I definitely do for the ones that are closer to a week. I finally slipped into bed around 10 pm, giddy thinking about the week ahead!

Questions for you:

– Do you usually unpack your suitcase on trips?

– If you had to choose between guac, salsa and queso, which would you choose? Sorry to even put that hypothetical in your mind!



Reflections after (almost) one year of being a mom:

Hey hey!! I have been chipping away at this post for the past year, and even then, I realize if I try to sum up all my first year mom thoughts, we’d be here all day- so I’ll just share a few! Warning: this is total stream of consciousness and is about to be all over the place!

Overall: I have never felt more sure and secure in a purpose in my life. I LOVE being Quinn’s mom. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster- it’s a real trip how many conflicting emotions can exist so strongly at once- joy, unimaginable love, guilt, fear, bliss, concern, self-doubt, gratitude, exhaustion- the list goes on!!

Body image: So this topic is an interesting one. I think “bounce back” culture is absolutely ridiculous (how is it even a thing?!), and I put zero pressure on myself to look a certain way or to be a certain weight after having Quinn. Weight is actually quite arbitrary for me personally too- I don’t think I’ve talked about this, but to even have a chance at pregnancy, I had to gain about 15/20 lbs. So while getting back to “pre-pregnancy” weight happened pretty quickly and naturally for me, my pre-pregnancy weight was higher than my usual weight for a long time prior to that. I wasn’t my healthiest at that prior weight, so I have no desire to go back to it. I’m just really grateful to my body for carrying and growing my girl, birthing her and then sustaining her post birth. I just want to focus on being my healthiest for Quinn (which for me does not equate to my thinnest), so I can be energized, strong and a good role model for her.

Body recovery: I learned recovery extends far beyond that 6 week checkup mark!

Identity: I have heard people say they lose their identity often as a mom. I definitely can see how people can say that with the total redirection of energy and focus on another human in a way you’ve never experienced. However, I personally want to shift that common narrative to seeing it as my identity has been expanded, enriched. Being Quinn’s mom, as you are likely well aware, is a massive part of my identity. And while the attention I once gave elsewhere may be shortened, I still have tried to foster those other parts of myself. Going into year #2, I think those slivers of time devoted to hobbies, friendships, exercise, time with DJ etc. will change too as Quinn’s needs change. The part of my identity that I want to nourish and foster most is my faith. I haven’t prioritized spending time in prayer, reading the Bible or attending Church like I used to. That is definitely going to be a big priority for our family entering into this next year!

Sleep: I didn’t realize how babies are all different in terms of sleep! I felt initially like a failure given Quinn wasn’t a traditionally “good sleeper”, but I’ve learned the idea of this aspirational perfect sleeping baby is more of a societal (and somewhat unnatural) expectation, and is many times pure luck (especially early on). Plus she had reflux pretty bad which I think was the root of her sleep issues for a bit. Anyway, I now know the fact that she doesn’t sleep through the night is totally ok, and she will get there when it’s right for her. I’m here for those cuddles and night feeds as long as she needs. While writing this, I’m oddly getting some great sleep even with the wake-ups because I often go to sleep not long after she does (I’m usually asleep by 9 pm and up at 6 am). In the beginning though, I realized how important sleep was when I was screening borderline for postpartum depression going on pretty much 1-2 hours until we made some changes to our sleep situation that I believe saved me/us.

Breastfeeding: I joke that in the miracle that is pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, my one gripe about it all is I have never been hungrier and never have had less time to eat 😅. Forget pregnancy, this breastfeeding hunger is UNREAL. Overall, I’m grateful to have had a great experience breastfeeding, as I know everyone’s journey with that can be luck of the draw too with so many factors at play. And even though I have had a smooth ride overall, I have still shed tears while fighting with a pump that wouldn’t work and when we’ve had to dump/accidentally spilled milk (countless times) for one reason or another. Whoever said “don’t cry over spilled milk” surely never breastfed! Giving up dairy and soy has been pretty tough due to Quinn’s intolerances (although we live in a time of excellent substitutions). I’d do it all over again for her, but I cannot wait to order a greasy, cheesy pizza again. DJ and I joke if she gives me attitude, I can pull the “I gave up cheese for you!” card. I say we joke, but I 100% know I will use that at some point 😄.

Mom guilt is really really intense. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s been a challenging but important journey in learning how to be gracious with myself as a mom and as a person. I’ve also experienced tons of consistent guilt over not being able to give Moose the same attention I did prior to Quinn being born. I’m still working on finding that balance.

I thought I was going to be a type A mom- with a strict schedule and such? I am definitely not as much as I expected, only about certain things. There’s not really any set schedule here right now; I just follow her cues as the day goes.

As much of a homebody I am, it’s so important for both me and Quinn to get out of the house to elevate our moods! Mainly getting outside at least once a day for a walk has made a huge difference.

I’m convinced we have a black hole in our home that eats up all the Pacis. Where do they all go?!

I realize how easy it could be to compare milestones/ways of parenting, etc. I have learned to just be entirely focused on doing what is best for our family and tuning out the white noise. I listen to my maternal instinct more than I expected; it’s a powerful thing and sometimes “goes against the grain”, which I’ve made peace with, despite knowing others may judge my decisions.

Thank goodness for Google.

But also….Google is the WORST 🙃.

Trial and error is the name of the game!

Pretty much every cliche I have heard about parenting is true.

The whole mom brain thing is very real 🥴.

I’m terrified of anything ever happening to Quinn, but I know I can’t keep her in bubble wrap. I gotta give that one to God any time that general sense of worry sets in.

DJ and I started dating when we were 15/16 years old. Now venturing into this season of parenthood together, I’ve seen a whole new “why” behind God bringing us together as a couple. I am so grateful for the way he balances me out, calms me down and is my true support every single day. The way we have prioritized our relationship has shifted- it isn’t many date nights or spontaneous trips out of town right now. Yet I’ve grown so deeply in my respect and awe of him as a Dad and partner. He’s been the definition of supportive in every way. We’ve also faced new challenges in this season of parenthood. DJ is not a fighter, but I can be- so in my moments of low patience and exhaustion, I’m really working on not getting worked up, especially in front of Quinn. I want to maintain respectful conversation about frustrations without it coming out in my tone of voice or getting visibly angry- so this is something I’m working on.

This has been the richest, most beautiful, joyful year, despite the difficult moments. I’m doing my best to hold onto every second, but it’s true they do go by fast. I asked another mom recently-“Everyone says to enjoy every minute because it goes by fast, and I am trying to, but how do I actively make sure I’m treasuring it all?”. And she gave the best advice – she just said “just make a lot of memories”. I loved that, so simple, true and actionable. Being present & making memories is going to be central to how I approach Year #2 (and the rest of #1!).

As I’ve heard said before, my heart is now outside my chest, in the form of a soon-to-be walking, adventurous, curious, giggling, chunky legged, happy, teething machine- and I am so honored God chose me and DJ to be her parents ❤️.

Pictures from Rachael D Photography

St. Patrick’s Day, Meeting the Easter Bunny and a Sweet Birthday Party! 🍦

Goood morning!!! How are you all doing? I am currently sitting in the parking lot at work with a couple extra mins to spare before clocking in. I realized quite a bit has happened over the last couple weeks. I’m looking forward to reliving it all through this little blog capsule ☺️.

March 8th I traded out my usual bowl of oatmeal for a bowl of Special K Vanilla Almond cereal with blueberries and blackberries. Sometimes ya just want a good ol’ bowl of cereal!

Quinn has started crawling around with toys in her mouth like Moose. When I picked her up from daycare one day the teacher said, “She’s over there being a puppy” as I see Quinn scurrying about with a toy dangling from her mouth. 😂

She also briefly went through a phase that week where she refused to use a spoon. I considered it could double as a sensory activity as I allowed her to eat a bowl of oatmeal directly off the tray?! 😄 Thankfully she’s using spoons again, but that sure was a messy little phase!

That day I remember being a little rough. Quinn was still in her fussy phase (going through a leap, so it was to be expected), but I needed to get us out of the house STAT, usually the sure-fire way to lift both our spirits. We had a couple groceries on the list, so I used that as the excuse to go to Giant Eagle Market District. This is a fun grocery store that has all the groceries you can want along with delicious freshly made meals for purchase and a great sushi station!

“No photos pls”.

This tomato jerky caught my attention! It’s basically sun-dried tomatoes re-marketed as tomato “jerky”, but I love sun-dried tomatoes, so I very much enjoyed them!

I was feeling good having us out and about, but then things took a quick turn after I loaded the groceries in the car. As I was pulling out of my parking spot I heard a “clunk” and realized part of my bumper had fallen off (this is a couple days after the spare tire fell off the car in front of me, bounced and hit my bumper). When my car was initially hit, I thought the damage was minimal since I was able to pop the bumper back in, but as I saw majority of my bumper hanging off the car in the grocery store parking lot I realized that was not the case. I very slowly and cautiously had to drive the car home. All of a sudden anxiety took over manifesting in an actual anxiety attack which has not happened in a very long time. It seemed somewhat out of the blue since I haven’t dealt with much anxiety at all lately, but I do think my body is going through big hormonal shifts with Quinn eating so many solids/drinking a bit less milk. Curious if any other moms noticed a hormonal swing around 10 months?

As soon as we made it home, I felt relieved. And both Quinn and I were in good moods after our time out of the house. We just played at her different play stations around the home. Even with Leap 7 being the booger that it was, this is still my favorite age yet! I have so much fun with my girl. Each day is a joy, seeing her grow and her personality flourish. We had a giggle fit together the other day, and it is one of the best memories of mine of all time!

That evening, I wasn’t in the mood to mess with dinner, so I thanked my past self for picking up a chicken at the Eagle. I served it with mashed potatoes and green beans to keep things easy. I really think rotisserie chicken doesn’t get the hype it deserves!

The next day we FaceTimed my Grandma and Grandpa in Traverse City right before Quinn’s nap while my mom was there visiting them! ❤️

I prepped for work that day. I give major major props to moms that work full time because it’s a LOT of prep. I make sure all pump parts are washed, packed and the pumps are charged. I then pack my lunch, DJ’s lunch and Quinn’s lunch. I also make sure scrubs are washed, and all bottles are labeled and ready for daycare. I don’t mind the prep, but I sometimes think about how much time work occupies when I’m not actually at work! It’ll be much simpler when I don’t have to pump or make bottles here soon. It’s been such a privilege to pump though, and I may miss it – I actually love my long lunch pump break. (I use the Willow for the other pump sessions, so I can continue working).

I try to double meals when making lunches. So I’ll make whatever I’m packing for lunch for dinner too. For Quinn, I made tempeh (she loves), green beans, kiwi and pinto beans. One tray for daycare and one for dinner!

For my lunch, I made a salad with tons of veggies, tempeh, hummus, baba ganoush and a balsamic/fattoush dressing on the side. For extra protein I packed a Good! brand protein bar and a parfait of oat based yogurt with two scoops of collagen powder and two scoops of chocolate PB2 (it makes it chocolatey & delishhh). For a salty snack, I packed sea salt Popcorners with a slice of smoked Gouda vegan cheese. And a couple squares of Hu dark chocolate to satisfy the afternoon sweet tooth!

Quinn is definitely finding interest with random objects around the house. She is particularly loving pots, pans and measuring cups. She won’t sit in her exersaucer anymore while I make breakfast, so I just plop her on the ground in the kitchen and hope she will find the pans sufficient entertainment, ha. Otherwise, I’ll give her a teether cracker or half a banana while I eat and prepare her breakfast.

March 11th I finally got around to Quinnie Q’s 10 month photo. We’ve long nixed trying to get her to lay flat in the crib for a cohesive pic with the earlier monthly photos; this girl is just too “busy” as her daycare teachers describe her, ha!

I have two big boxes of clothes she’s grown out of in her room, and sometimes Quinn passes the time by taking them out and throwing them on the floor, because why not?! 😄

That weekend was particularly chilly. Our March has been colder than February I’m pretty sure! We didn’t get in our family walk that weekend due to this, but we did spend some quality time with our family that evening at “The Farm”, Gigi and Gordie’s home 😊.

Me and my girl. 🥰

For dinner, Gordie grilled us up the last two steaks from the best-steak-I’ve-ever-had Snake River Farms gift for DJs bday! We also had JA’s salad, roasted asparagus and a baked potato. Hard to beat this combo!

For dessert, Gigi made a vegan pumpkin pie!!! You guys!!! I could have cried I was so excited to be able to eat some pumpkin pie again, and it was soo good!!! Of course, nothing tops Gigi’s own pumpkin pie, but this gave me my fix for sure!

On Sunday, we went to visit Mimi, our grandmother on DJ’s side and Quinn’s great-grandma 🥰. She had this ducky and balls of yarn for Quinn to play with- she was preoccupied for a long time with these!

Mimi has a lot of beautiful birds that come by to snack on her feeders. Quinn enjoyed watching them out the window. We saw a cardinal and woodpecker while there and identified some other unique birds too.

For dinner, I made Quinn mushrooms, zucchini and some beans.

The rest of the day was work prep!

At work on March 13th, a coworker suggested I take a warmed blanket to the pump room since I’m always chilly pumping. I took their advice, and it was the best decision! Perks of working in the hospital I suppose!

For dinner that evening, I kept it easy with leftovers of the steak, JA salad and Alexia sweet potato fries (I have been obsessed with these fries lately).

March 14th, I went to get my teeth cleaned. The dentist’s dog was there to greet guests, and she is the sweetest thing ❤️.

My dentist recommended upgrading my toothbrush to the Oral B power sensor electric toothbrush, and oh my goodness- it’s amazing!!!! Definitely worth the investment. I’m a little harsh on my gums when I brush, and this has a power sensor to let me know when I’m brushing too aggressively. It also has a bunch of other features, and it feels like I have a professional teeth cleaning every time I use it. I love this thing. The things us people nearing 30 get excited about 😂.

For lunch, I made Quinn a little meal of edamame, Japanese sweet potato and Brussels sprouts.

We then went to the store to ride around in the cart and try to knock things off the shelves 🤪.

Quinn loves to play in her nursery, so we spent a good portion of the afternoon up there. It’s also where I like to fold clothes since the dryer is right across the hall from her room. She gets a real kick out of me dramatically throwing all the clothes in her room out of the dryer prior to folding.

I also ordered an edible finger painting kit for Quinn that we whipped out that afternoon! I just sprawled out the blank side of wrapping paper on our kitchen floor and let her go to town with it. It didn’t hold her attention for long but was still fun, and we have a lot more to still use in the future!

For dinner that evening, I made some salmon to go over greens with the JA salad and some fattoush dressing.

March 15th I took us to Nervous Dog to start the morning!

I decided to change things up and get a matcha latte that morning! I don’t know why I forget this is on the menu. It’s so delicious.

Quinn really enjoys flipping through this sign language book. I think it’s because there are other babies in it, she loves any photos or books with other babies.

That afternoon Gigi came by to hang out with us! She captured this sweet pic of Quinnie 🥰.

Quinn is also starting to stand unassisted for a few seconds! It’s so exciting, and it’s just adorable how proud of herself she is whenever she does it.

For dinner that night we had Jovial pasta and roasted eggplant. For Quinn’s pasta, I just used unsalted tomato sauce mixed with Italian seasoning. I like to sneak in greens sometimes in the pasta sauce too.

March 16th I had my usual breakfast of oats, berries and PB.

For lunch, I introduced Quinn to peppers and added some shredded chicken, leftover eggplant and grapes. We are so close to 100 foods for her, I’m debating what her 100th should be! She hasn’t had corn on the cob yet, so maybe that would be fun?! We’re saving actual sweets for her smash cake on her bday.

A little walk with my love bug!

March 17th brings us to St. Paddy’s day! We still have outfits ready to go for every holiday from the shower last year!

These smiles! She now has 8 teeth. She always tries to grab my toothbrush out of my hand, so I got her her own little electric toothbrush. She loves this thing!

March 18th I started the day by making Quinn eggs, avocado, grapes, mandarin orange and toast. She did not eat one bite 🙃. But she did eat half a banana. Her fave.

After her first nap, we went to the mall to meet with the rest of our family for Easter Bunny photos!

She was fascinated by the Easter bunny, but a bit more unsure when I handed her over. They still captured this sweet photo before the whimpering began!

After the cousins met Mr. Bunny, we went to the nearby play area in the mall. I wish this mall was closer because Quinn had a ball! It’s fun seeing her with other kids like this too- we get glimpses at daycare, but this was a treat! This girl is a social butterfly.

Continuing to work on standing unassisted! Small but mighty.

Chillin’ with Gigi!

Amy was in town, and Quinn could not have been more thrilled. Now we just need to convince Aunt Amy to move back!!!

After the mall, we went to CoreLife to grab some lunch to go. I tried one of their menu items instead of the usual build your own bowl: the tofu sriracha ginger salad. I feel like I could eat this every day! It was soo good. I never think to put fresh ginger in my salads, but it’s a great addition! Oh and I forgot how good sriracha is. I need to restock at home.

That evening we went to The Farm for a cookout with the fam! Love this pic of Quinn with her Grandpa 🥰.

I’m kicking myself for not getting any foods pics because it was all so tasty. We always have the best burgers when we’re there- I think they’re Walburgers?

It was so much fun having Amy and her boyfriend, Chris, in town! I hope they come back soon.

For Quinn’s dinner that evening, I made her ground turkey with lentils and green beans that we took with us to The Farm.

She waved around her green beans proudly to everyone, it was adorable. So proud of her green beans 😄.

Sunday, March 19th, we had another fun family filled day! My heart was full after this weekend. We celebrated our nephew, Ender’s, third birthday.

And how amazing is this cake?! My sister in law MADE this!!! We all say she could open a bakery if she wanted. She made the cookies below too. I mean, just incredible!!

It was a vegan cake and sooooo tasty. I was blown away! I actually dreamt about the cake last night, yes it was that good! 😋

A sweet pic of Ender opening gifts supervised by cousin Quinn and friend James 🥰. Quinn was all over the wrapping paper!

We all enjoyed Dewey’s pizza (they have excellent vegan options!), and Quinn had a little of the leftover Turkey, sweet potatoes and asparagus (cut up before she ate it) for her lunch. It was a bit messier than anticipated, whoops!

And you know how much this girl hates the car- well guess who fell asleep in the car on the way home?! This has only happened a couple times ever.

This post is plenty long, so I’ll wrap here. We have some exciting travel coming up- a Florida vacation and possibly a trip to Chicago in the summer! If you have any baby travel tips please send my way 🙂 (especially for the plane!).

Questions for you:

– Do you prefer cake or cupcakes? I’m team cake, but still enjoy cupcakes.

– Anyone watching the fourth season of Love is Blind? I think it’s one of the best seasons yet!



Pop Culture Drama, Recent Eats & BLW meals!

Good morning, everyone!! I hope y’all are well out there. I am UNWELL given all the Vanderpump Rules drama. I meannnn (!!!!!). IYKYK. I’ve put more productive things, like reading my book club book, on hold while I drink from the fire hose that is this drama.

Anyway! For those that don’t melt their brain with trash TV, I am going to treat ya to a maybe somewhat boring, but somewhat more wholesome, recap of our last few weeks, ha!

The last few weeks have been a bit tough for us. Poor Quinnie had a double ear infection, eye infection & stomach bug. All her dairy intolerance symptoms came back too, so we are once again halting the dairy trial. DJ and I also got the stomach bug, so that’s twice in a few months- no bueno!!! We did have a somewhat healthy stretch though until all this thankfully. Also Quinn’s in Leap 7, and it’s kicking our butt. And to top it all off, while driving home from work, a tire flew off a truck in front of me, hit my bumper and now it’s only hanging on by some tape. Back to the collision center we go :/. Feeling very thankful I was totally fine and Quinn wasn’t with me when it happened.

Enough of the woes though!!! We did have some fun and wonderful moments despite functioning sub-optimally and the stretch of poor luck.

February 18th we started the day with a trip to Walmart to grab a few miscellaneous items and to get Quinn out of the house. She has been loving the grocery trips!

We returned home, and I started immediately into some food prep! Miss Independent has pretty much free rein of our kitchen and living room area. It’s nice we have a pretty open layout to keep an eye on her and already had baby gates installed for the Moose.

Back to food prep- I have been really enjoying leaning into baby led weaning! I do have days where it feels overwhelming, especially when time and groceries are running low; however, I’m learning all the time how to make nutritious and convenient meals for Quinn. I have some of these combinations to share today, and it helps me to look back at what I’ve done recently for quick ideas too.

One of my favorite go-tos for her is eggs mixed with various ingredients (eggs have been a great way to introduce new foods and incorporate greens), avocado and toast. She always eats the toast, where the eggs and avocado is a toss up.

I also made these cauliflower nuggets with sweet potato. I used these to introduce onion and parsley. I didn’t quite dry out the cauliflower enough because they were tough to crisp up, but Quinn still gobbled them up.

The next day, February 19th, we wanted to go to the land to let Moose run around. Quinn cried from the moment we got in the car, so we decided halfway there to scrap the drive and just walk the towpath instead.

It actually ended up being an unexpectedly special walk. We walked past where DJ asked me to be his girlfriend on this bridge in January of 2010 ❤️. It felt extra nostalgic and sentimental returning there with Quinn & Moose.

It was a great temperate walk for February and reminded us how much we enjoy that trail.

After our walk, we stopped by Corelife. Usually I’m all about getting a salad there, but I was craving a wrap instead. I loaded up lots of veggies and tofu. Now that I’m able to have soy again, I’ve been craving tofu more often!!

That afternoon I made Quinn a “basil Alfredo” spaghetti squash with a coconut yogurt/avocado/spinach/basil/Italian seasoning/nutritional yeast blended into a sauce. She ate every bite.

We decided to venture over to Krieger’s to pick up some items for a meal I wanted to make from my Half Baked Harvest cookbook. I’ve discovered I am way more diligent about making recipes if I choose one from a cookbook vs saving them electronically. I’m still a decade behind with my hard cover cookbooks and paper planner, hah!

February 20th, we started the day playing with Moose!

The recipe I made that weekend was a real winner (so far all the recipes have been from HBH!). This was chicken saltimbocca with prosciutto, arugula and capers. Here’s a similar recipe from her site!

February 22nd, I made Quinn egg/oat/banana pancakes with a boiled blueberry compote. I think pancakes are her favorite food right now! I use them to introduce finely crushed nuts too.

She is still obsessed with her walker. She also is recently obsessed with the hanging hand towel in the kitchen. She rips it off the oven handle and runs around with it like she’s a flagger at the Grand Prix.

That afternoon, I made Quinn a lunch of toast with mashed edamame spread, tomato wedges and artichoke hearts. I try to balance her meals over the day with fruits/veggies/proteins/grains, but it’s always a mystery what she will actually eat.

For dinner, I made DJ and myself lamb salads with vegan feta and a fattoush dressing. We agreed this simple meal was one of our favorites of late!

One very exciting new skill Quinn has been working on the last few weeks is waving!! She really does it the best when I wave to her in the car mirror. I was able to capture it while we were at a stoplight that week (one of the rare times she’s not wailing in the car!).

February 25th, I was craving Thai food, so I made these green curry bowls from HBH with shrimp added.

They were yummy! Not our favorite recipe so far, but it gave me my Thai fix! I served with the Bfree Naan bread- I don’t recommend, they’re pretty flaky and have an odd flavor. I do like the Bfree pita though!

February 26th was prep for the week. I made the Jennifer Aniston salad again for book club the next day!

That afternoon DJ and I took Quinn and Moose to Bath Nature Preserve for some fresh scenery on our family weekend walk.

A fun little detail on this trail- there is a Solar System Walk that has a marking of all the planets in our solar system spaced on the trail scaled to how far apart they are in reality.

February 27th, I made Quinn a Banza penne with beef bolognese and zucchini. She loves this! A new favorite meal for sure. I try to make a nice sized batch of these meals, so I can easily send her food to daycare too.

That evening I had book club. Gigi stopped by to watch Quinn before DJ got home so I could make it on time. So so sweet of her! It was a great book club- we read The Love of My Life. It’s a good read! I’d give it maybe 3.5/5 stars – it’s a fast one with some decent twists.

February 28th, I dropped Quinn off at daycare for a couple hours so I could take Moose on a run. It worked out beautifully as it was during her wake window.

It felt soo good to get that run in! And it was nice to have one-on-one time with Moose ❤️.

Here is a pic from Marie while I was at work that week with Moose’s new friend, Wilson. 😊

Quinn was definitely under the weather that week. I tried to take her to the park and do bucket swings, but she was not having it. She did enjoy sitting in my lap though and swinging.

I took her after to the pet store to see fish, birds and her personal favorite, gerbils.

She was refusing food mostly that week and wanted to nurse nonstop. I think if I had to guess it was a combo of not feeling well/teething & Leap 7.

The tides started slowly turning on March 5th. We all seemed to be feeling a bit better. Quinn ate up some of her favorite pancakes & gave us some big characteristically Quinnie smiles. I was so relieved she was eating again!

That afternoon, we took Quinn to the park! We did the swings again and the slide. She was way more happy about it this time!

I still wasn’t feeling 100%, so I ordered sushi, my go-to comfort food when not feeling well. I realize this is a very odd choice of a comfort food, but I crave it when I’m feeling off. I think it’s the sodium I crave. (This is from Ichiban sushi, my favorite around here!).

Once Quinn started feeling better, I jumped back into making her meals. She really enjoyed this combo of pinto beans, broccoli, tofu and kiwi.

Not much else is going on around here! In my spare time I’ve been planning Quinn’s first birthday party, reading The Measure for the next book club, watching Married at First Sight and trying to keep us all healthy!

Questions for you:

– Are you following the VPR drama? Must discuss!

– What is your go-to comfort food?



Eliminating dairy/soy after my baby’s cow’s milk/soy protein intolerance diagnosis

Hey friends! I have a little bit of a different post today. I’m going to share all the tips/tricks/products I can think of that helped me survive the elimination of soy/dairy from my diet due to breastfeeding with Quinn’s cow’s milk protein/milk soy protein intolerance (CMPI/MSPI). I didn’t see much in the way of resources out there, so I hope this little post can be an extra knowledge nugget for those looking for it. When Quinn was diagnosed with cow’s milk protein intolerance 9 months ago, I had quite the journey ahead with navigating how to eliminate both allergens from my diet. I have been vegan in the past, which may have helped a little with the dairy elimination, but soy was another bear! When I say soy is in everything ….(!). Of note, I entirely eliminated soy from my diet (some opt to keep soy lecithin/refined soybean oil in the diet, but it depends on the baby- talk to your provider about that!).

I hope this helps any other moms that are out there feeling overwhelmed because the learning curve can be tremendous. But it is possible to continue breastfeeding! (However, if you ultimately decided to go the formula route- there is absolutely no shame in it!). I also want to have this post written in case we have to navigate this again in the future with another baby, because, wheeew, I’d hate to forget all this!

I don’t want to get too graphic/medical- that’s not the intention of this post. But I will say it took a solid three weeks for Quinn’s symptoms to show marked improvement. Around week two I thought why am I doing this if it’s not working?, but the pediatric gastroenterologist encouraged me to give it time, and she was right! When I started seeing the improvement in Quinn’s symptoms, it was the motivation I needed to keep going. If you do want more details about what lead to the diagnosis, we can definitely chat in the comments or feel free to send a message.

A couple quick disclaimers: I’m not writing this as a medical professional/to give any medical advice, I’m simply writing friend to friend! Please check with your provider regarding these products and soy/dairy elimination if you have any questions. Additionally, this post is not comprehensive. There are a lot of really great products/resources out there, and I’m discovering new ones all the time! If I missed something you love, please let me know so I can include it ☺️. Further, this post is not sponsored in any way. I just genuinely want to share products that have worked for me (and some that haven’t). Lastly, products can change, so while I hope this entirely accurate, please double check labels :).

Any who!! Let’s get into it, shall we?!

First things first- I learned it’s important to read every label. Many restaurants have allergen sheets online where you can quickly tell if there is dairy or soy in an item. Below is the chart I used to familiarize myself with what to look for specifically on labels. Here is the link for the graph below reproduced from McMaster Children’s Hospital.

It can seem overwhelming looking for all these ingredients, but it is helpful that most labels write “contains: *insert allergen*” under the ingredient list. I still read the whole label though because I have seen soy in the ingredient list when it’s not listed as an allergen.

Some sneaky culprits of these allergens that surprised me were lunch meats/certain processed meats (casein), dressings/marinades, breads and candies/chocolate. When going out to eat, most places can check if something contains soy/dairy. Just specify you cannot have butter too, because I discovered many people don’t automatically think of butter as dairy. Also you can request your meal is cooked with olive oil- that way you can be more confident butter or vegetable oil (which usually contains soy) won’t be used. Also, just because something is vegan does not mean it’s soy free!

Now let’s talk the good stuff- what’s not off limits!! I tried to stock our fridge with whole foods to serve as the base of my diet. Think- vegetables, fruit, meats, seafood, eggs and grains (oats/rice/quinoa/farro). The trick here is to be cautious buying “quick” variations of these items. For example, many of the instant rice packages have soy added. When cooking with just these basics listed, you add so much flavor to your meal with lemon, lime, herbs and other spices. (Also double check spice/seasoning labels because dairy/soy can hide in there too!).

In addition to my “base”, below are the products I’ve explored/used. The biggest bummer- some of these specialty items can be pricy, but it’s good to know these are available if you want a suitable alternative. I substitute with these products in recipes too, and usually the meal turns out well!

Milk: There are so many options out there for this! I usually opt for Silk’s unsweetened cashew or almond for less creamy milk or Planet Oat Oatmilk if I want creamier. You have many options depending what you prefer- coconut, oat, flax, pea protein for example. There are extra creamy/sweetened/flavored/chocolate options too! I totally avoided anything hemp based though. If ordering a latte or milk based drink at a coffee shop, I suggest ordering oat milk as it will usually be creamier and frothier than almond or cashew. Here’s a fun roundup of some of the best.

Coffee Creamers: My favorite are the nut pods. They aren’t necessarily as creamy as real creamer, but I’ve enjoyed trying the different creative flavors. Califia has a line of coffee creamers that sound delicious, I just haven’t got around to trying them yet!

Yogurt: My favorites are either the unsweetened So Delicious coconut, True Goodness plain coconut (creamier than the So Delicious) or oat based yogurt. Another option for almond based is Kite Hill unsweetened Almond, although the flavor is a little ~different~. If you venture into the sweetened route, there is a lot out there! I just have found the sweetened yogurts tend to have a lot of added sugar, so I’d rather sweeten mine more subtly/naturally with honey/fruit. I personally don’t enjoy the Nancy or Forager yogurt as much, but they have oat and cashew based ones, respectively. I have never tried Culina, but that’s another soy/dairy free coconut based alternative. Also! Plain unsweetened yogurts can double as sour cream. I always top tacos with it and a little a lot of hot sauce 😋.

Butter: I LOVE the Earth Balance soy free butter! I haven’t tried anything else, but I’m sure there is more out there.

Breads: My favorites- Dave’s Killer Breads, Atoria’s Lavash Wraps . Other brands to look for: Udi’s, Bfree. For tortillas- Siete Chickpea or Cassava tortillas are my faves! I heat them up in a frying pan with a little soy/dairy free butter until golden and make tacos with them.

Lunch Meats: Here is a helpful link that shares common lunch meats that are dairy/soy free. My go-to used to be Applegate’s Turkey Breast, but recently it’s become kind of dry and flaky! Now I use Hormel’s Natural Turkey breast. I also tried to avoid nitrites/nitrates/preservatives in general.

Cheese: My two favorite dairy and soy free cheese brands are Violife and Follow Your Heart. I love the Violife Colby Jack shreds (they melt great) and Follow Your Heart smoked gouda slices particularly! Violife has a great parmesan cheese block too. Daiya is another solid option, I just prefer the other two more. Although I do love Daiya’s jalapeño havarti cheese block!

Pizza: This category is trickier to find good alternatives I’d say. Daiya has some options- I don’t love all of them, but their meatless meat lovers is probably my favorite. I think the best is the Vegan Harvest Flatbread. Amy’s vegan margherita is also tasty! (Amy’s also has some good soy/dairy free burrito options (and general other prepackaged options too!).

Mac n’ Cheese: I usually make my own with a pasta like Jovial or Banza & the cheeses listed here, but some prepackaged options are Annie’s and Amy’s!

Protein bars: Some dairy/soy free protein bars have sugar alcohols, so be cautious if you’re avoiding those. My go-to soy/dairy/sugar alcohol free were Good! Snacks Bars, Go Macro, and Rx Bars. If you’re ok with sugar alcohols, No Cow, Orgain and Lenny and Larry have options. Other general options: Aloha & Larabar. Some of these have good protein powder options too. In order to add a boost of protein to my day, I make a “Greek yogurt” with a dairy/soy free yogurt, 2 scoops of collagen powder, peanut butter or chocolate pb2 (makes it more of a chocolate mousse), berries & honey! That collagen powder is a great protein boost you can mix into coffee, soups, yogurt, etc.

Peanut Butter: There are many options here, just watch for the soybean oil! My favorite is MaraNatha Creamy or Crunchy peanut spread. Smucker’s Natural, Justin’s, or Once Again Nut Butter are other solid options.

Ice Cream: There are some good options out there you will see listed as “frozen dessert”. Most use a coconut, almond or cashew base. So Delicious has delicious options (double check for soy though). My favorites are the cookie dough, salted caramel cluster, oatmilk S’Mores, vanilla bean sandwiches, mocha almond fudge bars & dipped double chocolate delight bars. Clearly I’ve made the rounds in the ice cream department! I have a harder time finding Oatly products, but I think the coffee flavor frozen dessert is so delicious and creamy!!! They have some great other flavors too. Some other brands that have specific dairy/soy free products: NadaMoo!, Halo Top (contains sugar alcohols), Cado Avocado, Favorite Day, Jeni’s (Texas Sheet Cake is a winner!), & Talenti sorbettos.

Chocolate/Sweets: Hu chocolate is my favorite (the salty dark chocolate is my weakness), but it can be pricy. Another great option is any of the Enjoy Life products (I really enjoy the brownie bites and chocolate chip cookies. They have good baking product alternatives too!). Also, you can keep out an eye for plant based alter ego chocolate bars. Another way I satisfy my chocolate sweet tooth is with these Veggies Made Great Chocolate Muffins. I put a little ice cream on top of a warm one of these for a dessert, and oh my goodness- heaven! It reminds me of a molten lava cake. For a quick overall healthier brownie alternative, I enjoy Nature’s Bakery Double Chocolate Brownie Bars. Oh and I cannot forget the PNW Cookies!!! Of what I’ve tried, I most love their Chocolate Chip cookie & Molasses cookie. Yum!

Cereal: I usually get the Vanilla & Almond Special K, but there are many cereal options available! Here’s a list of soy free options, many of which are dairy free too (but, as always, please verify).

Snacks: I have to have my salty snacks. My favorites include Hippeas Snacks (white cheddar particularly) Harvest Snaps Green Pea Snacks (original lightly salted), Popcorners, Hu Grain Free Crackers, Angie’s BOOM CHICKA POP popcorn (kettle corn is my go-to) & Simple Mills Sea Salt Crackers. Oh and Siete also has a slew of great chip options! There’s actually a whole lot out there in the way of snacks, just have to read the labels!

Dressings/Oils/Marinades: I keep it overall pretty simple. I tend to use balsamic, olive oil, mustard and Fattoush Salad dressing for my day-to-day. Noble Made has some fun options- some I still haven’t tried but want to! Most of their products are vegan (except the garlic parmesan wing sauce), but I can’t confirm all products are soy free, so please double check! Saucy lips has excellent choices too- and I believe they are entirely soy and dairy free! Primal Kitchen is another brand for dairy/soy free options. I tried the garlic Alfredo sauce, and it was fine; it did grow on me. However, they have other great options to explore!

Entirely dairy and soy free brands: These brands you can trust are good to go! Many of them have a wide array of products, so have fun exploring them!! Enjoy Life, Violife Foods, Daiya, & Hu Kitchen.

Further resources: I came across this master list as well! This list is nice because it highlights dairy free only foods as well if you are ok with soy. I don’t use an app, but it may be a convenient way to look up food choices! Here is a list of some to consider.

I actually have felt so good eating dairy/soy free. I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed is I feel overall less inflamed and oddly energized. It’ll be interesting to see if there is a difference when I add these back into my diet.

I sincerely hope this was helpful for someone out there! Please let me know if I’m mistaken on any of this information or you have products I can add :). You’ve got this!!



Family Brunchin’ & A Mini “Vacation”!

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all are having a nice week. I have a little time before my shift starts to chip away at this post.

January 28th we started the weekend with some cuddles with Moose ❤️.

That morning I switched out my usual bowl of oatmeal for a little egg burrito. Something about the weekends make me crave egg for breakfast.

That afternoon we went to my nephew, Jack’s, final basketball game of the season. They won and all received trophies at the end. It was so sweet! Here’s a a pic after a change and feed.

That evening I was able to soak up cuddles with Moose while Quinn climbed all over the baby-proofed living room. She is so much more steady now pulling herself up and cruising than she was even a couple weeks ago. I don’t feel like I have to hover right next to her every time she pulls herself up on something in fear of a fall forward or back.

While Quinn explored the daring living room landscape, DJ and I pulled up home designs on the TV as we dreamed about features we would love to have in a future home if/when we build on the land (we’re talking a long time from now). It’s fun to dream and look at different styles though! I know a lot can change between now and then. Right now I’m really into the “barndominum” look. Said every Midwest girl ever hahah.

January 29th we met with my Dad’s side of the family for a big family brunch at my cousin’s! It was really nice having my sister, Andi, in town from Colorado. We missed Kevin and Halston (who just bought a house in Charlotte, NC!) .

I love this little bib Quinn got from her Aunt Laura and Uncle Ricky!

Andi came by in the afternoon- it was great to catch up!

January 30th I started the day with some avocado toast on leftover dairy/soy free sourdough. Very yummy!

That day was so much fun. I love my full days with Quinn at home. We started out with some morning giggles in her new nugget fort. This nugget was a recommendation from a recent friend, and it’s been so much fun!!

That afternoon, I made a wrap with bacon, smoked Gouda cheese (dairy free), power greens, red onion and mustard on a mustard wrap. I’m actually not usually a big bacon fan even after eating meat again, but it’s weirdly sounded kinda good lately.

That afternoon we went to Target for some fill-in groceries, and I whipped out my cart cover for the first time. She had a ball strolling the aisles. This may be our new past time. Wow, writing this post I realize I am quickly turning into one giant cliché, if I wasn’t one already 😂. But if loving going to Target for fun is wrong, I certainly do not want to be right!

I picked up this vegan jerky just out of curiosity- but it wasn’t all that great. It was fine. Give me the real stuff 😜. Sometimes I find myself talking like this and I’m like, “who am I?!”.

That evening I made us some bowls of veggies, brown rice and grilled chicken strips with the primal kitchen garlic Alfredo mixed in.

January 31st, I took Quinn to our go-to coffee shop, Nervous Dog. I quietly read her a few books and played with some toys and puppets.

That afternoon our peaceful morning was unfortunately a bit disrupted. The alarms in the house went off unprompted for the THIRD time, so I called the fire department to make sure there wasn’t anything deleterious truly going on like a carbon monoxide leak.

We waited for the fire department in my car. I asked the NP about having Quinn’s hearing tested, but she advised we just watch and wait (see how language develops and how she responds to sounds, etc.). At this time, we have no reason to be concerned but will have a lower threshold for referrals if any concerns arise. I’m happy with that plan!

Anyway, back to the pain in the butt alarms – no carbon monoxide or anything else was detected thankfully. Just one of the detectors was bad and setting off the rest randomly. Sort of an anticlimactic story, but I am glad it is!

February 1st, we whipped out the walker for Quinn. She is obsessed with this thing. I think it gives her a sense of freedom and independence she’s longing for. I always joke she has this attitude of “this baby stuff is for the birds!”.

I had to work February 2nd, but Marie sent us some sweet photos of Moose from his daycare! In the first he’s hanging with his pal, Captain. Some of his best buds are the littlest dogs. Moose definitely does not know his size, hah!

February 3rd, I made Jennifer Aniston’s famous salad per the recommendation of my friend, Melissa. Oh my gosh, this is so good. I made mine with violife vegan feta, but you really couldn’t tell the difference!

I served it with slightly over air-fried salmon (whoops). But even DJ enjoyed the salad, and I wouldn’t say feta is usually his cup of tea/block of cheese.

The morning of February 4th I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or as DJ and I jokingly say “the wrong side of the bread”. I was in a bad mood for no good reason. And usually when that’s the case, the reason is hormones. I felt the need to just be entirely alone for a bit. I also felt so guilty wanting that but after talking to Clair and my mom that day, they assured me that is very normal. Quinn had a bottle she didn’t drink at daycare that I didn’t want to have to dump, so I asked DJ if he could feed her while I pumped and ran a few errands. He happily agreed. I ran to the UPS store and then stopped in CVS. While at CVS, I had a craving for something salty and carbonated (corroborating my hormone theory all the more). I grabbed some beef jerky (the REAL stuff) & a chemically-laden diet Dr. Pepper. I then whipped into a nearby empty parking lot to pump while listening to a podcast, taking myself on a little mini vacation at a driving range complete with palm trees 😄.

After pumping, I headed back home and was in much better spirits. Nothing a deserted tropical oasis, a DDP and a self-prescribed time out can’t fix 😄.

That afternoon we went on a beautiful family walk outside.

For dinner I made us Praeger All American Impossible Burgers with smoked Gouda vegan cheese in lettuce wraps. DJ actually loves this brand Impossible burger, as do I.

February 5th, we had such a fun morning as a family! And this time I woke up in a much better mood. I had been wanting to take DJ to the Burntwood Tavern in Cuyahoga Falls ever since I went with Rachel. It’s so cozily situated on the water and not far from us.

We attached the fast chair for Quinn and played puppets with her while waiting for our food. She was a happy camper being out and about!

Quinn is wearing her overalls from her Great Grandpa 🥰.

During their brunch, they have a Bloody Mary bar. I couldn’t remember the last time I had one, but it looked delicious, so I made one- extra extra spicy 🌶️ .

DJ opted for one of their mimosas.

I got the same thing I always get – an omelette, but the potatoes are where it’s at 😛. DJ got their Nashville hot chicken sandwich- yum!!!

We came back that afternoon and played with Quinn, crawling alll over the place, before her next nap. ❤️

Quinn still snoozes a lot in my carrier for naps, so lately I’ve been watching Married At First Sight while strolling on the treadmill. This is a good season so far! I love this show so much. I think it’s one of the best kept secrets in reality TV land. I also listen to the Love at First Sight podcast after every episode – Aysha and Jason are so much fun to listen to and are hilarious. Sometimes I look forward more to listening to the podcast than watching the actual episode.

The rest of the day, I chipped away at a recipe from the Half Baked Harvest cookbook- these basil beef bowls. Oh my, were they delicious!!!

February 6th was Quinn’s 9 month appt! Can you believe how quickly the time has gone? I surely cannot. All around a great report for this one ☺️.

I didn’t take a pic, but for dinner that night I made her pasta with a homemade tomato, power greens and oregano sauce. This girl gobbled it down!!

The next day I made her avocado, sardine and quinoa balls. She loves sardines, I just have to give them to her on bath days 😆.

After work on February 7th we went on our usual outdoor walk.

February 8th, we spent a fun day with Gigi. We went on a gorgeously crisp walk outside with Quinn taking in all the sites. I’m excited to be able to start jogging with her in this jogging stroller as the weather turns!

That afternoon we ordered Aladdin’s. I was craving their lamb salad and ordered a side of the baba ghanoush with pita. I added my own vegan feta for the full experience. Never disappoints! If you ever find yourself here, you must order a side of their hot sauce 😋.

That evening we went to Senior Night at my little sister-in-law’s basketball game ❤️. It was so special and emotional! 🥹. Really stinking proud of her! She’s going to where DJ and I went to college to play basketball, so we’re all really looking forward to that!

After work on February 9th, we went on our usual walk greeted by more blue skies! It certainly has been a mild winter.

For dinner for Quinn, I made sweet potato wedges, brussels sprouts, and quinoa mixed with a little bit of hummus.

I also prepped some nuts to introduce in her oatmeal to help introduce more allergens. She’s done well so far!

Also some really exciting news!! Quinn and I are able to have soy again! We trialed her for about two weeks where I had a little soy daily and then ultimately fed her tofu for a couple days – and no issues!!!! This is huge! Next step is dairy – but I’ll take what I can get for now 🙂 I’m also relieved to know she won’t go through her life having to avoid soy and that she truly did grow out of it.

Alrighty enough of my rambles!!

Questions for you:

– What would be the hardest food for you to give up?

– Any podcasts you’re enjoying?



Our January So Far!

Good morning everyone!! I hope your year is off to a great start. Can you believe we are already nearing the end of January? It’s been a pretty eventful one for us, in both great and other not-so-great ways 🥴. I’m going to share it all today!

Zipping all the way back to December 28th, I picked up a shift at work and was greeted by this beautiful sunrise heading out the door. Usually I leave in the pitch black, but my shift started later this day. It was a nice start to the morning. I also got this picture below while Quinn was at daycare 🥰.

That afternoon, we FaceTimed with my siblings, niece and nephews. It was fun to see everyone. Andrea is coming in from Colorado at the end of the month, so we’re excited for that! She hasn’t seen Quinn since July!

We jumped on the call fresh off a walk outdoors, hence the wintry getup, hah!

December 29th was a very special day. We celebrated Christmas with my Dad-in-law’s side of the family in the evening. It was a reminder of how wonderful it is to live so close- it was tough to get all our schedules to match, but when you live in such close proximity, you can even celebrate Christmas a week later on a week night!

One tradition DJ did growing up, and I would love to continue with Quinn, was having a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas. How adorable is this?!

I had a moment of total nostalgia. We had Moose with us, and I had a flashback to last year’s Christmas when I was sitting by the fire with Moose when we he was just a puppy and I was still pregnant. Now there he was, a full grown dog, lounging in the same spot, and Quinn is now here with us too. Wild how things change in a single year!

Quinn got after the gifts! She loved trying to eat everything per usual. In her mind the whole world is edible. Bow? Yum. Tissue paper? An appetizer. Cardboard? Main entree, fiber.

She was spoiled by her Sissy, Poppy, Aunts and Uncle! We had a blast the next day diving into the gifts. How adorable is this little turtle ball pit 😍.

That afternoon of December 30th, I decided to try the stroller again for a walk. With Moose, I don’t feel comfortable putting her in the carrier while walking him since he tugs on the leash when dogs pass. She enjoyed the stroller much more without the car seat. She just happily took in the views and crisp air while clutching her best friend, Violet.

New Years Eve, I was in the mood for a festive brunch. I decided to make a “beermosa” with non-alcoholic malt beer from Two Roots. This is fantastic non-alcoholic beer and award winning for a reason. Mixed with the orange juice it was a great combo. For brunch I made veggie egg scramble with a slice of Dave’s bread topped with Crofter’s berry jam.

It was a fun, chill day at home since DJ had the day off too! In the evening, Quinn got to experience her first fine dining experience.

We were going to a restaurant called Ken Stewart’s Lodge, so it seemed appropriate to put her in this outfit 😊.

And we’re off!

She started off in the high chair but didn’t last very long before we started passing her around. This social butterfly was ready to socialize.

For my main, I got scallops over butternut squash risotto (containing butter) which were divine. At that time I was adding back dairy into my diet in small amounts since Quinn had done well with yogurt and cheese. I had a little creamed spinach too. Unfortunately the next week, all her symptoms of cows milk intolerance returned, so I’m going to wait until she’s closer to a year to try again.

Quinnie girl got her own side of mushrooms, but was not super interested. She way preferred a couple bites of my risotto.

Here she’s reaching for the dessert menu. Girl knows what’s good!

Overall, she did well! It was a longer (albeit delicious & wonderful) meal. We were there from probably 530 to about 730, and she usually goes to bed no later than 7- but she was ready to push back the time on NYE! I probably should have brought more distractions though. At one point we used her shoes as a toy/teether- I mean they never actually touched the floor so they were probably fine?! 😅 It was so good to see our family and chat about everyone’s plans for the coming year.

January 2nd, DJ had the day off again! We had been wanting to take Moose to PetSmart to do his Christmas shopping, just never found the time until then.

Yes, we were bad parents without getting him anything to open on the holiday, but to make it up to him we thought it’d be fun to take him to the store and let him choose his own gifts/treats! If he really seemed excited about something we loaded it up.

The nice thing was pretty much everything he wanted was on sale after the holidays. Thanks for being a cheap date, Moose 😄.

Moose also so sweetly sniffed out some holiday cookies to take to his friends at Aunt Marie’s. Thoughtful guy, that one.

After getting Moose’s goodies, we took Quinn over to admire the birds and fish. I had her outward facing in the carrier, and she just loved taking it all in! This would be a fun rainy day activity for us to do in general.

That afternoon, we snuck in a family walk between the rain storms.

We started Quinn in the stroller, but she was over it halfway through and wound up in the carrier. We laughed because DJ was left pushing Violet in the stroller and no baby. Quite the look there, Deej!

That evening held another cherished memory ❤️. We went to Gigi and Gordie’s for Christmas!

They even had a stocking made for Quinn 💕.

We had fun opening gifts with Quinn (again trying to keep her from eating all the wrapping paper). She was sooo spoiled by all her grandparents!

We had Gigi’s chili for dinner too- my favorite!! She puts the big chunks of tomatoes in her chili, and I could eat it on repeat for days 😋.

Also I had to share how many EmergenC packs we were gifted for Christmas- clearly everyone knows we need them 😂.

January 4th was a tough one! I was using my back cam in the rain while backing into a gas station spot and didn’t see a pole since it was blurred in the cam 😭. I took out my back bumper and a taillight. Thankfully Quinn was not in the car (I was on my way to daycare when it happened). It’s all sorted now, and thank goodness for auto insurance, but was such a hassle, and I was just so mad at myself!

But this girl can turn any week around! On January 6, it was flannel day at daycare so I put her in this sweet outfit 🥰.

That day I started feeling under the weather, and it got worse as the day went on. I was so nauseated by noon/had no appetite, and I couldn’t eat anything the rest of the day. That is highly unusual for me. By the evening I felt so weak and tired that all I could think about was getting into bed. Overnight, it hit DJ too. It was very clear by the next day we had the stomach flu. It was the single hardest day in parenting we had faced yet. We were so weak and sick, we set our alarms every hour to alternate caring for Quinn. Gigi graciously stopped by to relieve us for a bit too in the afternoon. We survived the day, and thankfully Quinn didn’t seem to get it as bad as we did (she did throw up once but seemed her normal, happy self most of the week). We turned the corner Sunday and started getting an appetite back. We loaded up all the bland food items.

We even had enough energy to set up an obstacle course for Quinn that afternoon. She had so much fun with this!

My milk supply plummeted after the bug, but two weeks later thankfully it has come back to baseline. I basically just had to eat a LOT and drink a lot of water to get it back.

Monday January 9th Gigi sweetly watched Quinn while I zipped to drop off my beat-up car and pick up a rental.

January 10th, Quinn and I played in her playpen after breakfast.

I then got Quinn ready for the day and realized we unintentionally were matching, hah!

I finally got Quinn’s eight month photo just a little late!

January 12th I had off work. Quinn and I had a blast just hanging out together all day and cooking.. I made a vegan shepherds pie from scratch. DJ and I didn’t love it- I should have known it wasn’t our cup of tea looking at the ingredients. But Quinn, now that girl loved it!

That week we decided to give the full on baby led weaning a go again! It’s been much less stressful this time around (also she has 7 teeth!). Quinn has been enjoying it, and meals tend to last longer since she really has fun munching on her foods. So far, we have done egg, avocado strips, tomato wedges, zucchini spears, sweet potato wedges, sardines, whole asparagus, broccoli florets and pineapple BLW style! We still give oatmeal for breakfast and purées to make sure she’s getting her iron, but it’s been an exciting and fun endeavor!

January 13th, my birthday, I decided to start the day with a different type of breakfast! I gave the shepherd’s pie a second chance and put an egg over it. It transformed the flavor, and I had this on repeat for several days after!

I went for a massage that morning and returned home to a sweet edible arrangement from DJ. It was so thoughtful of him to get this. I couldn’t really do cake this year with the dairy/soy allergy, but this was a very sweet alternative ❤️.

Rachel stopped by and brought me food from Town Hall in Cleveland knowing I would be able to order something from there! Again, so thoughtful 🥹. I had their beyond delicious Brussels sprouts and spicy salmon roll. There is so much on their menu I want to try!

It was so much fun chatting away with Rach! When she headed out, I opened my gifts from DJ- I have to share this one with you all because it’s one of my most treasured gifts I’ve ever received.

Best gift ever 😭.

That weekend was a much needed chill yet productive weekend. We got so much done and spent quality time together as a family. Moose loved the relaxing weekend too. I thought it was so sweet he took a nap on her baby blanket 🥹.

While Quinn insists I’m physically in the playpen with her 90% of the time, sometimes when I run over to do dishes or get my cup of coffee real quick, I’ll return to her making the silliest faces through the mesh 😄.

On January 15th, Gigi and Gordie offered to stop by to watch Quinn while DJ and I celebrated my bday out! We decided to go back to Michael Angelo’s. I had a giftcard, and I wanted DJ to experience their yummy food!

It always feels so weird when we get into the car without Quinn or Moose. We realized we hadn’t had a date since October! Crazy how time flies. We decided we want to be more intentional on finding time for dates out this year.

We shared a flight of wine to sample some different ones. Our favorites were the 2021 Rose and Wildflour Cabernet.

For my main, I got vegan rigatoni. It was fine, but when I brought home leftovers I was able to doctor it up with my own vegan cheeses and butter to take it to another level 😋.

I also gobbled up their asparagus salad which I had last time and loved!

DJ enjoyed their carbonara!